Introduction to Road Cycling Competitions

May 10th, 2022 by dayat No comments »

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The spirit of competing has always presented itself in mankind since our prehistoric ancestors started to walk upright millions of years ago. It was much simpler then, they competed for food, shelter and territory. As in any other sports, cycling has its fair share of events, testing and pushing the limits of the cyclist to outdo and outperform each other for sake of glory and victory. Cycling competition started towards the end of the 19th Century and has been continuously growing ever since. The first recorded cycling event actually happened about 140 years ago on May 31st, 1868 held in Paris, at the ‘Parc de Saint-Cloud’ (famous for its beautiful gardens) which was won by a British rider named James Moore. Road cycling was also included in the first Olympic Games back in 1896. With the introduction of different designs of bicycles and cycling discipline, the sport grew even faster, such as Track, Mountain Bike and in 2008, BMX being the latest addition cycling sporting event to the prestigious games.

Outside the Olympic Games, there are much more variety and famous competition events. With million dollars sponsorship and broadcasting rights, there is almost a major cycling event happening weekly across the globe. Sadly this sporting event has not been spared of the greed of humanity, with the pressure to perform, has lead many athletes to use illegal methods to gain the competitive edge and brought negative publicity to the event and the spirit of the games. To control and manage cycling events to ensure every cyclist is competing at par, major cycling events are now practicing doping test to prevent use performance enhancement drug. It seems to be working at least in one event, from 6 riders being tested for positive performance drug usage in 2008 Tour de France to zero cases this year that just completed with Alberto Contador, winning it. The question in everybody’s mind today is how did Lance Armstrong did it, wining one of the toughest road race and holding a world record of 7 times in a row before retiring in 2005, July 24th to be exact. Today, Lance still claims to be most tested athlete in the world with the French Anti-doping Agency who tested him for the 24th time in the last year and each test came back negative for any performance-enhancing drugs.

Road events as it implies are raced on paved roads and at time cobbled streets. The road race similar to marathons are normally mass-start events held on public roads, which required to be closed during the duration of the race and guided by race marshals. There is a huge fascination and following for this sporting event that there is races held in each continent. The race can be designed to run in circuit event where the start and end is the same location or it can be designed to run from one city to another, encompassing both urban or rural setting as well as combination of both, ranging from a few kilometers to hundreds. To make a race or event challenging, organizers will include several topography characteristics into the race, like great distances, flat roads, twisting, hill climbing, and descents. Bicycle Manufacturers or commercial sponsors will fund teams to participate in races across the globe, such as Tour de France, Tour de Senegal, etc.

A team can consist up to 20 to 25 members but only about 9 to 10 will ride in the race proper. The rest of the team are made up by the support team such as the team managers, technical strategist, mechanics, therapist cum nutritionist, medical doctors and even media communications. Within the race team proper, each rider will have their own specialty or strength. The main part of the team will consist of “Domestiques” riders or known as servants whose main role is to support the lead cyclist or captain from other team riders, as well as forming a windbreaker in the earlier part of the race. Other specialist known as “Climbing Specialists”, as the name implies chews up uphill routes as fast as they can. Next, known as “Sprinters”, that mainly conserve their strengths and stamina for predetermined crucial sprints for points and position. Then we have the “Time Trialists”, whose skills are to be able to pace out his energy with great efficiency to maintain high speeds over great distances; and lastly the Captains, the main individual whose face is likely to be on every jpeg file of journalist covering the event. Every team cyclist has a top priority to support their captain to win the race, however it may not be the same strategy every time as accidents may happen and the next best rider may need to take over the captain role.

To win the road racing event, you need to have the lowest time or completing the race is least possible time. Within the main race, there are different segments of the race event which consists of a mixture of stage races, hill climbs, time trials, and “criterium” (short circuits normally within a city or urban area). Even if you have won a few stages, it does not guaranteed that you will be crowned the overall race champion. This is where the strategic planning of the race director who will be able to advice how the team should perform at different stages of the race. They may choose certain stage to attack and which stage to conserve their energy by maintaining a position within the top 10 cyclist. Lastly, there are special sets of rule which could prove to be an advantage to specific riders, in the case of sprinters. Race official can designate certain stages for collecting sprinting points and those with the highest points may be rewarded with time bonuses that can change the position of a rider in the standings.